Shias and Kashmir's quest for Freedom

Festival of interlocutory


Parthasarthy’s plea for equating Shias with Gujjars and Paharis and to exclude them from Hurriyat (G)’s politics is a travesty of political history, with the intention to propagate a divide in Muslim Ummah. Shia’s have been in the fore of freedom struggle right from Sultanate period when under the leadership of the Chak Padshahs, they valiantly resisted the covetous designs of the Mughal emperors. Having failed to conquer the independent, sovereign Kashmiri nation by force the Mughal Emperor Akbar turned to deceit, inviting Yusuf Shah to Lahore, wherein in violation of his given oath the founder of Din-i-lllahi put him behind bars. This event has been termed as "Zulm-i-behad" (tyranny unlimited), which recalls the year 1586AD/994AH. Pertinent to quote an extract from the statement of Moulvi Muhammad Sayeed Masoodi read before the trail court trying him for sedition during the Quit Kashmir Movement, "The present awful plight is not the outcome of previous one hundred years but the slavery and decline of Kashmir commenced 260 years prior to 1846AD in the year 1587AD/995 AH when Kashmir was deprived of its freedom and independence and entangled in the claws of Mughal imperialism".

Being an inalienable part of the Muslim brotherhood, the Shias of Kashmir have been active participants in the freedom struggle since the year 1924 when a committee of eight dignitaries convened by Khawja Saad-ud-din Shawl arranged to submit a memorandum of grievances based on the biased policy of the Dogra regime to the visiting viceroy. This was a significant milestone in our freedom struggle. The eight signatories to the memorandum besides the convener included Mirwaiz Ahmadullah of Rajouri Kadal, Mirwaiz Hamdani and three Shia members including Aga Syed Hussain Jalali, and Hajji Jaffer Khan. This was followed by setting up a committee under Khawja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai which included government employees and educated youth, with the objective of bringing to fore the discriminations faced by Muslims in the state, especially in recruitment of government services. Two young Shia brothers Hakim Ali and Hakim Ghulam Safdar were a part of this underground committee. Hakim Ghulam Safdar, the sole Muslim employee in Accountant General’s department at risk of his service managed to take out civil list from the confidential branch of his office. The committee arranged its publication in Muslim print media of Punjab. This perturbed the Dogra sarakar and the import of these papers in the state was banned. This was followed by a secret confabulation among educated Muslim youths who were denied government jobs to start a movement in the guise of "Reading Room". The Reading Room committee headed by Muhammad Rajab included Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah (secretary), Hakim Ali and his younger brother Hakim Murtaza who had passed M.Sc. from Aligarh along with Sheikh Abdullah. The contribution of Shia intellectuals who served as members of Reading Room, has already been brought to fore in last year’s GK issue leading and following up to the 13′ July commemorations. This activity was the precursor of regular freedom movement launched on June 21, 1931. A committee of eight members representing Sunnis, Shias and Ahmadiyas beside Sheikh Abdullah as a representative of educated youth was constituted. Aga Sayed Hussain Jalali represented Shias. The members of this committee were witness to the sacred oath taken on Qur’an for loyalty to the cause of Muslim nation. A congregational nimaz was offered by a mammoth audience comprising of all the Muslim sects at Khanqah-i-Maulla.

This united voice of the Muslims of Kashmir led to the appointment of a commission of inquiry headed by B J Glancy to look into the grievances of the people and make suitable recommendations. Among various sections of society called to appear before the commission, Hakim Mulla Muhammad Ali an officer in the Sericulture department, represented Anjuman-i-Imammi a Shia organization and endorsed in toto the pleadings of Muslim Conference represented by Khawja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai and Chowdari Ghulam Abbas.

Zulfikar a weekly newspaper of Shia community published by Munshi Muhammad Ishaq in 1935 also advocated the policies of Muslim Conference for which its editor Hakim Ghulam Hussain Makhmoor faced prosecution.
It is well known that the dominant majority of the Shia community was a strong votary of Pakistan movement and a historic session of Muslim Conference was convened by them at Ali Park, Zadibal in July 1947 in which a resolution for accession of the state to Pakistan was passed. This was followed by a jubilant Pakistan day on August 14, 1947 celebrated along with Muslim Conference.

As a consequence, the community was victimized after the accession of the state to India. Zadibal was placed under indefinite curfew. Budgam was brutally targeted by the Indian army because tribals who had infiltrated to assist freedom fighters were sheltered there. Eighteen villagers in a nearby Gogo village were forced by the army to stand facing a wall and shot dead. Consequent to terror let loose by the army the residents of Budgam town hid themselves elsewhere. The revered Aga family was compelled to migrate to Mirgund village. Sheikh Saheb had been fed with intelligence report that Aga Syed Yousuf Sahib had led nimaz-i-jamat of tribals and hosted a dinner for them. The government intended to detain him for interrogation but with Munshi Muhammad Ishaq’s intervention the matter was dropped. In keeping with their political aspirations, the community totally boycotted the elections to Constituent Assembly like Muslim Conference.

Thereafter the community remained a part and parcel of the freedom struggle which gained momentum after August 9, 1953 with the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah government. For the first time in our modern history the historic Ashura procession on 10lh Moharram was not taken out. The contribution of Shias in the Moi-i-Muqaddas agitation of 1965 need special mention, especially the mammoth procession starting from Budgam under the auspices of Anjuman-i-Sharie-Shiyan which offered nimaz-i-zuhar at Lai Chowk before proceeding to Jamia Masjid. The address of the Anjuman’s President Aga Syed Yosuf at the historic Jamia Masjid, Srinagar stimulated the movement. This agitation had shaken the government of India and the freedom movement would have been bought to a successful end but for the limited vision of some of its leadership.

A brief reference to the leaders belonging to Shia sect who have been heading various freedom loving parties or have been front rank members thereof. Munshi Muhammad Ishaq, a founding member of Plebiscite Front and four times its acting President was the sole founding member who stood by its basic object till the last breath of his life. In March 1968 when on the proposal of its founder President Mirza Afzal Beg it was decided to participate in Panchayat elections in contraventions of the basic objectives of the Front, Munshi saheb spoke against it and walked out of the meeting in protest. Foreseeing the wavering mindset of the top leaders of the Front, Munshi saheb addressed a press conference on August 7, 1969 apprising the people of their leaders willingness to comprise their principle. This came true in 1975, which marks a watershed in the history of Kashmir, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Now a word about some prominent Shia persons who have been founders or front rank leaders of the Kashmiri freedom moment. These include Moulvi Abbas Ansari (Chairman MUF and Hurriyat), Aga Sayed Ahmad Shalhari (Acting President of Political Conference), Hakim Muhammad Jawad (General Secretary, Plebiscite Front), Raja Muhammad Ayub Khan (General Secretary, Awami Action Committee), Aga Syed Hassan Moosvi (Executive Committee member, Hurriyat M) and Nissar Hussain Rather (founding member of Hurriyat G). Last but not the least, the eminent educationist Aga Ashraf Ali rejected the nomination to Legislative Council as its member which after his rejection was accepted by a local journalists.

It cannot be denied that the followers of "the cult of personality", that shrouds two leading religious parties of the Shia community have been participating in elections since 1975 under the leadership of the self motivated descendants, despite stout opposition of late Aga Sayed  Yousuf Moosvi. Unfortunately the doors to election process were opened before 1975 by pro-Pakistani parties like the Jamat-i-Islami, Peoples Conference, the Plebiscite Front and Awami Action Committee though indirectly. The two Shia religious parties followed suit which none the less cannot be defended.

It is unfortunate that the print media towing the line of pro-India parties presents them as Shia leaders and not as leaders of the parties they belong to. Does it not tantamount to dividing the Muslim nation? Another misnomer, I feel is the nomenclature given to freedom loving parties by calling them as, "separatist". Do not the parties struggling for freedom represent almost the entire Muslim nation of the state? In the context pro-Indian parties having a negligible support base and siding with the Indian state against aspirations and yearnings of the nation can be called separatists.